July 14, 2020 (Asheville, N.C.)— With so much uncertainty at the major league level on the resumption of play, it seemed increasingly inevitable in June that any affiliated minor league baseball season would need to be scuttled. That inevitability became a reality on June 30 when MiLB announced that it was canceling the 2020 season.
Locally, that translates into the Tourists being sidelined for the summer. In the past week, the team made the most of an empty stadium and a challenging situation when they announced the opening of McCormick’s Summer Grill at McCormick Field. Fans can enjoy the rare opportunity to eat on a minor league baseball field without dodging liners and the team will offer a portion of its ballpark menu for diners.
College Football — Area college football (including Western Carolina, Mars Hill, and Brevard) will likely make initial decisions on the conference level as to fall play this season. Nationally, there’s been a steady stream of updates on anticipated play, including the cancellation of the Ivy League fall sports seasons. The PAC-12 and Big-10 have announced conference-only seasons, with that still subject to change. The New York Times recently ran an excellent article on the probability, or lack thereof, of college football this fall.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (November 25, 2019) – College Football – The Brevard Tornados capped off WNC’s best college football campaign of the fall with a 42-28 win in the ECAC’s Scotty Whitelaw Bowl on Saturday. The victory over Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon (8-3) concluded what was the best season in the program’s 10-year history, as Brevard finished with an 8-2 overall mark under third-year head coach Bill Khayat. The contest was one of four NCAA Division III bowl games held annually by the ECAC and was the first-ever appearance in a bowl game for the Tornados.
Khayat played his undergraduate football at Duke, where he earned honorable mention All-American recognition (1994). As a player, he spent time in camp with the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers. As a coach, he’s served on the staff of the Arizona Cardinals and Washington Redskins.
The Western Carolina Catamounts had a predictably long day on the road in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, falling to the FBS’s Crimson Tide (10-1) 66-3. With the loss, WCU concludes its 2019 campaign with a 3-9 mark and a 2-6 record in the Southern Conference.At the DII-level, the Mars Hill Lions concluded their season last week with a 64-34 loss to Wingate. On the season, the Lions finished 5-6 after going 4-6 in 2018.
Pro Football – The Carolina Panthers season may not be quite at its tipping point, but it is close, especially after yesterday’s heartbreaking loss to the Saints. At 5-6, and with the return of Cam Newton nowhere in sight, how they do for the remainder of their 2019 season will have a long-term impact on the team’s profile in the years ahead. Here’s a look at what’s at stakeover the remainder of the 2019 campaign.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (October 21, 2019) – Panthers’ quarterback Kyle Allen is deservedly receiving a lot of attention this season as he’s done yeoman’s work over the past month in relief of an injured Cam Newton. Allen has led the team to four straight wins, and will direct the team against the 6-0 49ers this upcoming Sunday. Here’s an article that I contributed to Forbes this weekend on the undrafted free agent making good on his first opportunity as a starter in the NFL.
College Football– Western Carolina’s 2019 struggles on the gridiron continued this weekend as they dropped a Southern Conference game to Wofford, 59-7. The Catamounts (1-6, 0-4) return home to Cullowhee for the first time in three weeks on Saturday to host Furman (4-3, 3-1).
Asheville City – Asheville City announced this week that its men’s team would be moving to USL League Two (USL2) from its current place in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).Both leagues are typically considered at the third tier of the US Soccer pyramid, below Major League Soccer (MLS) and USL League One (USL1), respectively. The best place to follow Asheville City moves during theoffseason is on Twitter.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 13, 2019) – College Soccer – As western North Carolina college soccer moves into its final leg of the regular season, here’s an update on the current record of area teams:
NCAA DI: UNCA (3-8-1, 1-4-1 Big South) Mountain Five: Montreat (9-4-1, 6-2-1 AAC (NAIA)), Brevard (4-5-2, 4-2-2 USA South), Lees-McRae (2-6-2, 2-3-1 Conference Carolinas), Warren Wilson (3-4-2, USCAA), Mars Hill (3-7-1, 0-5 SAC)
NCAA DI: UNCA (4-10, 2-4 Big South), WCU (8-6, 2-3 Southern) Mountain Five: Montreat (6-6, 3-6 AAC (NAIA)), Brevard (4-7-3, 3-3 USA South), Lees-McRae (0-10, 0-6 Conference Carolinas), Warren Wilson (5-4-2, USCAA), Mars Hill (1-9-1, 1-4 SAC)
College Football– On the gridiron, the region’s three teams include WCU (1-5, 0-3 Southern), Mars Hill (1-4, 2-1 SAC), and Brevard (3-1, 1-1 USA South). All three were active this weekend, with the Catamounts dropping a Southern Conference decision to the Citadel, and Mars Hill and Brevard also falling in their conference games.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (September 18, 2019) – After an extended pause, Fieldhouse Report is back this week and returns as the region’s college football teams are well underway. To the east in Chapel Hill, Mack Brownis leading a resurgent UNC Tar Heels program that is 2-1 through three games after winning just two games all of last year. UNC hosts Appalachian State (2-0) in Chapel Hill at 3:30 p.m this Saturday.
To the west, Western Carolina (1-2) snapped a nine-game losing streak when they defeated NCAA DII North Greenville at home last Saturday, 20-17. The area’s remaining football entries, Brevard and Mars Hill, have also begun their 2019 season campaigns. The Tornados had their opener against the Apprentice School cancelled due to persistent lightning in the area during last weekend’s game.The Tornados host Christopher Newport this Saturday in Brevard at 7:00 p.m.
The Mars Hill Lions (1-1) fell in their 2019 opener when they dropped a 63-21 decision to VMI (2-1) of the FCS on September 7. They followed up that loss with a 46-14 victory over St. Augustine’s (N.C.) (0-2).
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 18, 2019) – College Baseball – UNCA’sBrandon Lankford, who last month was named as a first-team member of the Big South’s All-Conference squad, added a North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information Association (NCCSIA) All-State honor to his postseason awards last week. He was joined on the All-State team by fellow Bulldogs Austin Fahr (pitcher) and Greg Gasparro (pitcher-outfielder).
Lankford is also one of ten players who will play summer league baseball this year for UNCA. He’s currently playing for the Sanford (Maine) Mainers in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). Other Bulldogs active this summer include: Chris Troost (Southern Collegiate), Anthony Cuozzi (Coastal Plains), PJ Heintz (Southern Collegiate), JP Perez (Southern Collegiate), Tyler Serricchio (NECBL), Jacob Edwards (The Valley League), Wade Chandler (CVCL), Dominic Freeberger (Futures) and Hunter Hoopes (The Valley League).
In the area college ranks, the Brevard Tornados named Mike Victoryas their new head coach this week. Victory arrives from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and also served on the staff for USA Baseball and St. Mary’s College (Md.), where he was a pitcher as an undergraduate. On the diamond, the Tornados had second baseman Ryan Roon named to the NCCSIA All-State team within the college division category. He’s the first Tornado named to the squad since 2015, and the only player on the team in the college division from the western North Carolina area.
Tourists Baseball – The Tourists concluded the first half of their season with a 29-41 mark after dropping a 6-5 decision to the Lakewood BlueClaws on Monday. The Sally League is now on a three-game All-Star break, with the Tourists returning to play on Thursday when they host the Columbia Fireflies at 7:05 p.m. at McCormick Field. The South Atlantic League splits the season into two halves, so the Tourists will begin Thursday’s game with a 0-0 mark, along with the rest of the circuit.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 5, 2019) – Asheville City – The Asheville City men’s soccer team turned the table on Inter Nashville FC with a 1-0 victory in Nashville on Saturday. The Blues fell by the same score to Nashville (2-2-1) earlier in the season on May 7. Frank Rosenwald scored the game-winner for Asheville in the game’s 17th minute.
With the victory, the team moved to 3-1-1 in the NPSL, good for sole possession of first place within the Southeast Conference.They return this Saturday to face Greenville FC at Memorial Stadium at 7:00 p.m. Asheville and Greenville played to a 2-2 draw on May 11at Greenville’s Sirrine Stadium. The winner will decide the annual rivalry between the two teams, dubbed the Carolina Clasico.
The Blues’ women’s side dropped a 3-1 friendly to the Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on Saturday on the road in Tennessee. The game followed a victory by the same score over Beaufort SC (1-1) in Hilton Head, South Carolina on Friday night. Asheville City is now 2-0 on the season in Carolinas Conference-South Division matches, and 4-1-1 in six overall starts. Abbie Brown scored twice against Beaufort, and Megan McAllister had the Blues’ other goal.
Asheville City hosts the Charleston Fleet FC (2-2) this Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in a divisional matchup.
Tourists Baseball –Terrin Vavra, Willie MacIver, Alexander Martinez, and Jake Bird will represent the Tourists in the South Atlantic League’s All-Star Game on June 18 at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, West Virginia. Martinez currently leads the circuit with 11 saves out of the pen for Asheville, while bullpen mate Bird has made 22 appearances and limited opposing batters to a .237 batting average. MacIver paces the Tourists at the plate with eight home runs, while Vavra is sixth in the league with a .318 batting average while playing shortstop. The Sally League’s All-Star break runs from June 17-19.
The Tourists are 24-34 to date after dropping a 7-6 decision in extras to the Augusta GreenJackets (29-29) at home on Tuesday night. The two teams will play the final game of the three-game set tonight at McCormick Field, with the first pitch set for 7:05 p.m.
College Baseball – Western Carolina’s sophomore third baseman Justice Bigbie was named the 2019 SoCon Player of the Yearin late May. Its the 19th time since WCU joined the conference in 1977 that a Catamount has earned the honor. Bigbie batted .371 to top the league and added 12 home runs and 50 RBIs. The Chesapeake, Virginia, native returned to the Northwoods League this year to play summer league college baseball for the Madison (Wis.) Mallards.
Local Preps – Asheville School’sRachel Kuehn was selected by the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) as the National Senior Girls’ Golf Athlete of the Year. Kuehn is just the second North Carolina athlete to receive the honor in the 20-year history of the award. “This is unprecedented for an Asheville School athlete to get this kind of recognition,” said Asheville School athletic director Carl Boland. Kuehn won her third consecutive NCISAA Division II state championship last fall and will attend Wake Forest this upcoming fall on a golf scholarship. For the full release, click here.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 19, 2019)–Tourists Baseball– Nick Kennedy, an Asheville early-season success story, was promoted on May 4 to the Advanced-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, the California League’s Lancaster JetHawks. Kennedy is methodically climbing the Rockies’ ladder after getting drafted in 2017 in the fifth-round out of the University of Texas.
Following the draft, he was assigned to the Boise Hawks, where the Tampa, Florida native finished the year before being promoted to Asheville to open 2018. Last year was a long one for the lefty, as he posted a 4-13 mark, primarily as a starter, and a 7.08 ERA. He returned to the Tourists this year and made 12 appearances out of the pen, turning in a 3-0 mark and a 2.08 ERA, with 25 strikeouts in 17.1 innings of work. He also held opposing hitters to a .188 average, earning the notice of the parent club and the promotion to Lancaster.
The Tourists (15-26) are currently on the road facing the Lexington Legends (20-21) in Kentucky. After dropping the series opener in extras on Friday, the Asheville nine bounced back for 9-5 road victory on Saturday. Two games remain in the four-game set with the Legends.
College Baseball– The Western Carolina Catamounts and UNCA Bulldogs both finished their regular season schedules this weekend and will head to their conference tournaments this week.
UNC Asheville took on Gardner-Webb (25-24) to close out their season and opened with a win on Thursday before dropping the next two. Senior lefty Austin Fahrearned the game one victory as he yielded just one earned run and three hits, while striking out six.
UNCA (16-35, 9-18) will face sixth-seeded High Point (23-25, 14-13) on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. at Segra Stadiumin Fayetteville. It’s one of two single-elimination round games in theBig South tournament.
The weekend was a lost opportunity for WCU (20-30, 8-16). Had the Catamounts swept, they would have bypassed the play-in and moved ahead of the VMI Keydets (17-39, 9-15) to grab the #7 seed in the tourney, and a spot in the double-elimination field.
The area’s three other college baseball teams have completed their 2019 season with the following marks: Brevard (10-26, 2-21), Montreat (25-28, 8-19), Mars Hill (19-26, 5-18).
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 6, 2019) – College Baseball – After a long weekend in Atlanta facing #8 Georgia Tech, the WCU Catamounts travel to face SoCon-leading Samford (34-14, 14-4) this upcoming week.
Following that, they play a single game against Eastern Kentucky (26-22) before hosting Citadel (10-36, 3-15 SoCon) on May 16-18 to close out their 2019 regular season schedule. The Southern Conference tournament begins on May 21 with a play-in game between the eight and nine teams in the conference.
The Catamounts (18-25, 7-11) have more than doubled up their 2018 regular-season win total (7) and will try to close the gap on 2017 when they went an even 28-28 on the year. This year’s team has two of the league’s top three hitters in its lineup – Justice Bigbie (.381-11-47) and Matthew Koehler (.371-12-43). The team also has wins over Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State on its 2019 resume.
Furman currently sits at 20-27 overall and in fifth place with a 9-9 record within the SoCon. The Paladins took two-of-three against VMI (8-13, 14-45) this past weekend and are led at the plate by Jabari Richards’.347 average.
The UNCA Bulldogs (14-30, 8-13 Big South) are on a 10-day hiatus after dropping a 10-8 decision to ETSU on April 30 at Greenwood Field. The team returns to face the Big South’s Radford (23-24, 14-7) this upcoming weekend beginning with a 6:00 p.m. start on Friday.
Nine of its ten teams qualify for the Big South conference tournament beginning on May 21. The six through nine seeds play a pair of single-elimination games to gain entry into the double-elimination round of the tournament. Right now, the Bulldogs are in seventh place, a half-game behind USC Upstate and a full game behind Gardner-Webb in fifth place. The Bulldogs’ Greg Gasparro is hitting at a .325 clip, good for ninth place in the circuit and best on the team.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (March 12, 2019) – College Baseball – In an annual battle with the elements, college baseball teams in the Western Carolina/Upstate areas are beginning to gain the upper hand and get in more games with fewer cancellations.
At the NCAA DI level, the area’s three teams are off to varied starts: Western Carolina (Southern 8-5, 0-0), UNC Asheville (Big South 5-9, 0-0), and Furman (Southern 4-9, 0-0). Western is the turnaround story of the group to date as the Catamounts won just seven regular-season games last year before rattling off four wins in the Southern Conference tournament. They defeated two Big-10 teams this past week (Michigan State, Ohio State) and were set to host Notre Dame (ACC 6-8, 1-2)at Hennon Stadium tomorrow.
There are also three non-DI baseball teams in the region, as Lees-McRae and Warren Wilson don’t field squads. They are: Montreat (AAC (NAIA) 11-10, 1-4), Brevard (USA South 4-12, 0-8), and Mars Hill ( SAC 8-12, 2-6).
In the only 2019 game scheduled between the three teams, the Tornados topped the Cavs 4-3 in a weekday game on February 14.
In late February, Montreat’s Lydia Wilson earned All-American honors for the fourth time at the NAIA Nationals in Brookings, South Dakota. I recently wrote about the distance runner and the program’s efforts for the Black Mountain News.
College Lacrosse– Last week I had an article in Forbes online on how the UNC and Duke programs still comprise the power hub of men’s NCAA DI lacrosse in the South, despite expansion in the sport in the region and nationwide. The two universities are best known for their basketball rivalry and first faced-off on the lacrosse field in 1938. They’ll renew their rivalry this year on March 30 in Chapel Hill.